A ceramic cat, among other objects by David Hockney that were gifted to a couple who once sheltered the artist while he was hitchhiking, is expected to fetch at least £40,000 ($48,309) at auction on October 23.
Stacey’s Auctioneers and Valuers, based in the U.K.’s Essex County, is selling the rare cat sculpture along with two woodblock and hand-painted cards and a large ceramic dish Hockney designed with Norman Stevens. The works were gifted by the artist to Peter Richards and his wife, Wendy, after they offered Hockney and Stevens sanctuary from a heavy storm in 1955.
As a student at Bradford School of Art, Hockney would often travel around the U.K. with his classmates to see exhibitions, gifting his art to people he met along the way. One Sunday, Hockney and Stevens were hitchhiking to London to see a show when a rainstorm caught them unprepared in the Bedfordshire area. In an attempt to dodge the downpour, the two young artists dipped under the eaves of the Richards’s cottage. Upon spotting the wet wanderers, the couple invited the artists in and made them tea while Mrs. Richards dried their clothes, Stacey’s said in a Facebook post.
“Hockney maintained a friendship with the Richards and later gifted them a ceramic depiction of a black and white cat as a reward for their kindness on that wet Sunday afternoon,” the auction house said. Additionally, over the years, Hockney sent the Richards family letters, drawings and handmade greetings cards.
“I really don’t know what to do with the cat,” Hockney once wrote in a letter to the Richards before giving them the sculpture, the BBC reported. “The postman said unless it’s really well packed in plenty of straw and sawdust it would be risky. I think we’ll wait and bring down the cat and plates personally.”
The sculpture, coined the “cat of kindness” by Stacy’s, is believed to be the first of about six feline figures Hockney made and gave as gifts and comes with accompanying documentation from Hockney.
Other ceramic cats that have come to market have fetched £40,000 ($48,309) at Bonhams in 2011, and another sold for £94,000 ($114,426) at Christie’s in June.
Peter Richards, of Thorpe Bay, Essex, is now in his 90s and has decided to sell the cat and other works to benefit the younger members of his family, the auction house said.
Hockney, now 86, is widely considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. Stevens was also a successful artist specializing in printmaking and painting before he died in 1988 at the age of 51.
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